What the Frack?

Americans are better off skipping movie previews.

My favorite part of attending the movies is the previews of upcoming attractions. My wife, who is used to skipping the previews and arriving just in time for the big show, routinely gets irritated at my insistence on punctuality at the flicks.

After watching Looper on Saturday night, my wife’s right.

The movie itself was a massive disappointment. How you can screw up a film about time travel starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Hollywood proves time and again that they can do things nobody ever thought possible.

But the real lowlight of the evening was the previews. The first offensive preview was Matt Damon’s Promised Land. It starts off with Matt Damon working for a fracking corporation. Fracking – more technically known as hydraulic fracturing -- is the process by which pressurized fluid is injected into underground rocks, blasting out crevices that can be mined for natural gas. Fracking creates hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the United States and has the potential for many more. And state regulations ensure that fracking is largely safe for the environment. Hydraulic fracking has never – never – contaminated drinking water. The chemicals used are safe and regulated. All wastewater must be discarded in compliance with state and federal law.

But according to Hollywood, this evil practice – a practice which has generated some $100 billion of revenue per year – must be stopped cold.

Thus Promised Land. Because Damon begins by working for the fracking company, we know full well that they’ll be concealing the dire environmental impact of fracking and exploiting those poor landowners for all they’re worth. John Krasinski, most famous for portraying Jim in The Office, plays a farmer who’s realized the environmental danger of fracking.

This is the fracking version of Silkwood, apparently. And it looks terrible. But the propaganda effect of the preview is obvious: if you watch the preview and nothing else, all you’ll know about fracking is that it’s terrible for the environment. And that would be false. So Hollywood hasn’t quite wasted tens of millions. They’re getting their money’s worth of propaganda value.

The next preview was Zero Dark Thirty, set to premiere just after the election. Diligent readers will recall that the movie was originally slated to premiere just before the election, before the studio, afraid of political blowback, killed that notion. Instead, they’re running previews for this film which fictionalizes finding and killing Bin Laden.

Unlike Promised Land, this looks like a good film. But it also plays up the aspect of uncertainty in a way that nobody in the intelligence community has ever verified, except for Joe Biden. The entire preview centers around the notion that the American intelligence community is deeply divided over the Bin Laden hit. In reality, virtually nobody was against it. But the point of the movie, for which director Kathryn Bigelow received special Obama administration access, is that Obama made a “gutsy call.” And that’s what viewers get from the preview.

Finally, there was the preview for the remake of Red Dawn. The original version back in the 1980s was an ode to conservatism. It’s about a Soviet invasion of the United States, with a young band of Americans battling the Reds. The new version was originally supposed to be about a Chinese invasion of the United States. But China objected, and China has a huge film market. So now, the film is about the North Koreans invading America.

The North Koreans.  Think about it.

The film still looks conservative. There’s still a lot of talk about the greatness of America, America being the home of the brave, etc. But substituting Pyongyang for Beijing is just a mark of how willing Hollywood is to discard realism in favor of cash when it comes to labeling our enemies.

Most Americans won’t see any of these films. But a huge number will at least hear about them. And that means that their whiff of propaganda will enter the public nostrils. This is how Hollywood defines culture – one bit at a time. For my own part, I plan to start arriving late at the theater.

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